Wonderful Walker, The Old Man, A Flying Saucer, Gina and Neighbours.

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After an unpleasant squelch through the muddy forest of Grassguards (no wonder I dislike forests), a pleasant descent led to Wallowbarrow gorge and the unpolluted (rare these days) River Duddon, which Wordsworth describes as the ‘magnificent Duddon’ making a ‘radiant progress towards the deep’; it is one of twenty-one delightful rivers on the walk. I only found this out when I was compiling the index to the book, being totally astounded that there could be so many rivers en route. One of the tributaries of the Duddon, Mosedale Beck, as well as the nearby River Esk, have lovely clear pools that, on a hot day, tempt you in for a dip.

Arrival at the tiny village of Seathwaite gave us a choice of lunch-time venues, either the Newfield Inn or a log opposite the Church of Holy Trinity. We chose the latter, not because we were feeling religious, but because alcohol would not help us to climb to the top of the Walna Scar Road at over 1,900 feet. In the church is a memorial plaque to Reverend Walker, 1709-1802, (nothing to do with Walker’s crisps) who was the parson of the old church for sixty-seven years and to whom Wordsworth refers to in a sonnet as one ‘whose good works form an endless retinue.’ Because of his good works, he became known as ‘Wonderful Walker.’

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The Scafell Range from the Walna Scar Road

A long hard climb follows to the top of the Walna Scar Road, but the reward is fine retrospective views of the Scafell range. It was with some relief that we arrived on the crest of the pass but, having got his breath back, Alan decided to do a detour to bag a few summits, including brown Pike, Buck Pike, Dow Crag and the Old Man of Coniston. In order finish the walk, my priority was to look after my knee; therefore I declined the invitation to join him. In addition, I wanted to descend to Boo Tarn, hoping to get a glimpse of a flying saucer that had last been seen in the area in 1952 by a boy who had photographed it. Needless to say it didn’t appear for me as I scurried on down to Coniston, arriving at 3.30pm. I sat on a bench in front of the church, wrote some postcards, then had an ice-cream, this being one of my favourite activities on a long-distance walk.

After looking around Coniston, including the Ruskin Museum, I walked slowly in the direction of the hostel and ‘bumped’ into a young lady.

‘Are you heading to the hostel?’ I enquired, her red anorak giving the game away.

‘Yes, it’s just round the corner,’ she said in a friendly Australian accent.

‘Your not from these parts?’ I was curious to know what an Australian was doing in Coniston.

‘Oh no, I was Secretary in Australia, but have given up my job to travel around Great Britain and Europe.’

‘That’s very adventurous,’ I said.

My mind wandered; I partly came on walking holidays to escapes soaps, one of which Neighbours featured numerous Australian secretaries. They were now ‘invading’ the country in the flesh and blood, not just on television. I thought it was quite ironic that my children sat glued to Neighbours night after night, whereas I was talking to a real Australian in the middle of the Lake District.

‘Where have you been so far?’

‘I’ve just been to Hawes and Dentdale.’

‘Oh, they are on the route of the coast to coast walk we are doing at the moment.’

I was very impressed that an Australian had sought out such delightful places. Her name was Gina and she was getting about in an old banger she had bought for fifty pounds. She was about to visit many of my favourite country haunts, Eskdale, the northern Lake District, Ireland, and Scotland. Travelling alone, she said she got the bug from her mother who had also travelled extensively. She had never been to an English pub and so I invited her along.

Alan arrived at the hostel at 5.30pm exhausted, then was somewhat surprised when I asked if he had any objections if Gina joined us for a drink. At that point she appeared, so that any doubts Alan may have had immediately disappeared. Gina introduced me to Australian beers, whereas I introduced her to Guinness, and I know which I prefer.

The Finest View in England?

Post 53: A little further on Ross’s camp was reached. This is not the equivalent of a Lake District Butlin’s holiday camp, but is in fact some stones put together by members of a Victorian shooting party, who raised the massive flat slab onto the other stones to serve as a luncheon table. Of interest is that Ross, or someone, inscribed ROSS’S CAMP 1883 on it, which has survived the ravages of Lakeland weather to this day. Little is known of Ross other than he was an agent for the Muncaster Estate.

Near Ross’s Camp with ‘Paradise’ behind me.

We descended to pass Dalegarth Hall with its large rounded chimneys.Then there was a short detour to Dalegarth Falls almost hidden in a secluded gorge.

Continuing to St Catherine’s Church, just outside Boot, there is a unique sight in the graveyard. Here lies Thomas Dobson’s grave, the headstone being inscribed with his own portrait, a fox, a hound and a horn; a true work of art in granite. The mind boggles as to what I could have engraved on my own gravestone; my head with thinning hair, a pair of walking boots, a pint of Guinness, and last, but not least, a 65 litre rucksack. Keeping on the cheerful graveyard theme, a little further on there is a 250-year old packhorse bridge, the path crossing it being formerly the corpse-road leading to Wasdale Head. It is now used by walkers to get to the Wasdale Head pub; how times have changed.

One other feature of Boot is the corn mill restored in 1975 by Cumbria Countty Council. A corn mill has been operating in the area since the 13th century and the restored mill has a working wheel.

This was a short day and, arriving in sunshine at the Eskdale Youth Hostel at 3.30pm, we had time to wash our boots and gaiters in the nearby stream – it is important to keep up appearances on a long-distance walk. In the evening a visit to the nearby Woolpack Inn was essential to celebrate completion of day one of the fourteen-day walk. This was the start of a similar celebration on everyday of the walk!

31 March 1993: Day 2 – Eskdale Youth Hostel to Coniston Youth Hostel – 11½ miles.           When on a long-distance walk, one of the noticeable changes in my behaviour is that I seem to sleep much deeper with the result that I wake up much earlier. On this occasion it was about 5.00am, so that, as the dawn starting to shine through the curtains at 7.00am, I decided to get up and catch the early morning dew. The sun was rising at the far end of the valley and Harter Fell was beautifully illuminated. My spirits were high as I looked up at the path that would lead us past Harter Fell towards the secluded Duddon Valley. It was good to be alive and fit, with the prospect of glorious walking ahead in good weather.

After passing Penny Hill Farm, high spirits gave way to panting as we began the steep climb to the foot of Harter Fell. This should have been easy for Alan, but it was some time since he had trekked to Everest base camp and the golden rule of fitness is that it doesn’t take long to lose it, but takes a long time and much effort to acquire it. We arrived at the edge of Harter Fell, to what I regard as the finest view in England; looking up towards Upper Eskdale and the Scafell range where wisps of white cloud crowned the king of England’s mountains, Scafell Pike.

The big 50_6721_edited-1On the slopes of Hard Knott, below right to the north-east, is the best preserved of Roman forts in Lakeland Mediobognvm, commonly referred to as Hardknott Castle or Fort which acted as a defence against an approach from the coast, being built soon after AD120. I suspect the Romans wouldn’t have spent much time admiring the view as they would have been too busy looking out for marauding Scots and other unfriendly raiders.

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The First Day of my own Coast to Coast, a Roman Bath House, a Complete Strip and at 84 your never Too Old .

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30 March 1993: Day 1 – Ravenglass to Eskdale Youth Hostel – 10 miles.

A wet start to the day.


After a wholesome breakfast, we crossed the narrow road along the Ravenglass front to descend some steps to the beach. The tide was high, so that we didn’t have far to walk to dip our toes in the sea. It was not until some months later that I discovered that someone had found a Roman Diploma on this very beach. The Romans made Ravenglass their naval base for the whole of their occupation of north-west England; it was called Glannaventa. The Roman diploma was sent from Rome during their occupation of Britain between AD43 and 410 and represented a soldier’s discharge paper awarding him, after twenty-five years service, Roman citizenship. You can imagine the Diploma arriving by ‘horse-post’ and the soldier saying, ‘Well, I’ve been in Ravenglass for twenty-five years and I’ve only got to walk some 1,000 miles to get back to Rome.’

Ravenglass received its market charter in 1208, one of the first in what is now known as Cumbria.

Continuing along the pebbly beach a footpath sign came into view, a little yellow arrow stuck on a pole, half submerged in water. Not very encouraging for the start of a coast to coast walk! Fortunately, the sea could be skirted to reach terra firma.

We soon reached a Roman Bath House. The Bath House, known as Walls Castle (near Walls Mansion) is one of the highest-standing remains of a Roman building in this country and is all that remains of Glannaventa.


The above photograph is of an 84 year old gentleman from Antrim who completed my coast to coast solo some years later in 2002 and who wrote to me enclosing this picture amongst the Roman Bath house ruins. Amazing – so I sent him a certificate of completion !!!

He said in a letter to me about his coast to coast:

‘Thank you for so much for certifying me. My son and grandsons say I’m mad anyway. He came across a child in a farmhouse who played trombone so he joined in. The men of the house in the Dentdale B&B played cornet. His worst experience was climbing over the the hills to Coniston in drenching driving rain only to find the hostel closed until 5.30. His best experience was that of walking into the drying room, locking the door, stripping to the skin, and turning up the heat. Fully changed and dressed, sitting down to a marvellous meal cooked by mine host. Truly memorable’.

His last bed and breakfast insisted he phone in his arrival at Scarborough at the end of the walk as they were worried he would get lost in the woods.

His next planned walk in 2003 was the up West Highland Way in Scotland and down the Lowland Highland Way. Incredible as he would then be aged 85.

Your never too old for long-distance walking!

Back on my own coast to coast a gentle climb led to Muncaster Castle, an enormous granite and sandstone structure, which surprisingly houses an owl centre, home to the World Owl Trust. In the castle are beautiful tapestries, furniture and paintings. In 1464, Henry VI hid here and, in gratitude, presented the lovely glass ‘Luck of Muncaster’ bowl to Sir John Pennington; a replica is on view. It is said that as long as it is intact the Penningtons will live and thrive there.

From near the castle terrace, Ruskin described the view north-east to Scafell as ‘the finest in England’, this he felt was the entrance to Paradise; clearly he didn’t say this on a wet Lake District day, when the only thing you can see is rain dripping off your nose. A further climb led up to Hooker Crag. This is not a hill where ‘ladies of the night’ gather (as far as I am aware), but is in fact a fine viewpoint looking towards the Isle of Man out to sea and the Scafell range to the north. A little more worrying, Sellafield nuclear power station can be seen to the north-west and it is noticeable that glowing red skies are very frequent in this area – I would not of course suggest there is a connection. One of the notable features about the Lake District is that you can often see the weather coming towards you and, on this day, fine blue skies were heading towards us and were to stay with us for many days – wonderful!